Simon J. Ortiz a Gabriele M. Schwab, Children of Fire, Children of Water (reading). Moderator: Leslie Marmon Silko
Children of Fire, Children of Water: Simon J. Ortiz a Gabriele M. Schwab read from their unpublished book. Moderator: Leslie Marmon Silko. Ortiz a Schwab's joint project is unpublished as a whole but for two sections in the following: “Imaginary Homeland Security: The Internalization of Terror,” pp. 79-95, America and the Misshaping of a New World Order, Eds. Giles Gunn and Carl Gutierrez-Jones, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2010; “Memory Is Key,” pp. 68-81, The Kenyon Review, Fall 2008, Vol. XXX, No. 4, Gambier, OH. Simon J. Ortiz and Gabriele M. Schwab, Children of Fire, Children of Water is a collaborative book project composed of dialogical memory pieces that reflect on memory, history and trauma in today’s global world. We are drawing on both personal memories and on the collective memories gathered from two different post-World War II cultures, Native American and German. Our memory pieces perform a cross-cultural exchange between Simon Ortiz, a Native American writer growing up on a reservation under the continuing forces of US colonization, and Gabriele M. Schwab, a writer of German origin who grew up in postwar Germany under French and US occupation and lives in the US. Reflecting upon historical violence and the ongoing traumatic effects of colonialism, war and genocide on individuals and communities, we are using a dialogical, experimental and evocative form. A form of cross-cultural boundary work, our memory pieces look at the traces left by the histories of colonialism and wars on our respective cultural imaginaries. Writing together, we position ourselves in a transitional space between our cultures and between history and the present. We use the stories we weave together as evocative objects that trigger memories we could not have recalled in the same way from within ourselves. In this process, individual memories transform themselves into a new synthetic memory born from cultural crossings. Our stories are not mere recordings of memories but rewritings of cultural memory in light of another culture. We hope that our audience becomes part of this process of rewriting memory during which histories are found and enacted in the present. The pieces in Children of Fire, Children of Water resemble mosaic compositions or kaleidoscopic images with fluid boundaries. They create a performance of cross-historical and cross-cultural encounters in two voices that, while discrete and distinct, continually interact with and color each other. The dynamic energy behind our project is created by resonances between our pieces and their power to work as catalysts for new memories that might never have emerged otherwise. Rewriting our stories in light of the other’s stories, we often play with bifocal storytelling and include bi- or multilingual interferences. But we also carry the traumatic silences and mute images of violent histories into our work, reflecting how the latter have marked us in different, yet often comparable if not resonant ways. The juxtaposition of life histories from different traditions, cultures and places may productively test habitual assumptions and patterns of thought as well as feeling states, if not structures of feeling. In the best case, such practices become part of unsettling engrained patterns of remembering violent histories.